Accuracy of burn size assessment prior to arrival in Dutch Burn centres and its consequences in children: A nationwide evaluation
Background: Total body surface area (TBSA) burned, expressed as percentage is one of the most important aspects of the initial care of a burn victim. It determines whether transfer to a burn centre is necessary as well as the need for, and amount of, intravenous fluid resuscitation. Numerous studies, however, have highlighted inaccuracies in TBSA assessment. Therefore, the differences in burn size estimates between referrers and burn centre's in children and its consequences in terms of transfer and intravenous fluid resuscitation were investigated. Methods: This study involved two time periods from January 2002 until March 2004 and January 2007 until August 2008. All referred children admitted to a Dutch Burn centre within 24 h post burn were eligible. Data were obtained from patient records retrospectively and in part prospectively. Results: A total of 323 and 299 children were included in periods 1 and 2, respectively. Referring physicians overestimated burn size with a factor two (mean difference: 6% TBSA ± 5.5). About one in five children was referred to a burn centre without fulfilling the criteria for referral with regard to burn size (assessed by burn specialists) special localisation or inhalation trauma. Proportions of children receiving intravenous fluid resuscitation regardless of indication increased from 33% to 49% (p < 0.01). The received volumes tended to be higher than necessary. Conclusions: Referring physicians overestimate burn size in children admitted to Dutch burn centres. This has little negative consequences, however, in terms of unindicated transfers to a burn centre or unnecessary fluid resuscitation.